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Patriots practice Wednesday: Michael Hoomanawanui missing, Steve Gregory returns, Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard present

11.20.13 at 12:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Despite continuing injuries on the defensive side, the Patriots had only one absence Wednesday as they began on-field preparations for Sunday night’s game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was the only player not spotted during the media portion of practice as the team worked out in sweats and shells on the upper grass fields outside Gillette.

Safety Steve Gregory returned to practice after missing the last two weeks with an injury that required a procedure to stabilize the thumb. Gregory was injured in the second half of the game against the Steelers and did not return.

Aqib Talib was at practice after missing the last several defensive snaps Monday with an aggravation of his hip injury that forced him to miss the previous three games.

Alfonzo Dennard was on the field despite a reported knee procedure that is expected to keep him out a couple of weeks. Dennard was moving very cautiously and is not expected to be ready to play this Sunday night.

The team will practice again on Thursday and Friday.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos, Michael Hoomanawanui

WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Pats drop out of top 5

11.20.13 at 11:58 am ET
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The Seahawks are showing no signs of wanting to fly south as winter nears. Seattle continues its reign at No. 1 as it heads into its bye week and prepares for a tough stretch against the Saints (3) and 49ers (8).

The Panthers (4) claw their way into the top five after a statement win in the Monday night game. The Patriots drop three spots to No. 7 and have no time to focus on a controversial call in Week 11 because the Broncos (2) are set to roll into Foxboro. Tom Brady will prepare for his 14th showdown vs. Peyton Manning. Brady has had the upper hand in nine of the 13 meetings between the two stars.

The bottom five welcomes its latest playoff team of 2012. The Falcons plummet to No. 30 and join the Vikings (28) and Texans (31) as teams to have hit rock bottom after reaching the postseason last year.

Many teams still are in the thick of the playoff race as the final quarter of the season approaches. Check back next week to see who’s on the way up and who’s on the way down.

1. (1) Seahawks (10-1) — The Seahawks look to be getting stronger and stronger as they inch closer to capturing the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They go into their bye week with six straight wins.

 2. (2) Broncos (9-1) — Manning has been the story all year, but the Broncos offensive line deserves the credit after Sunday night’s performance. The O-line came up huge on the biggest stage by not allowing a sack to the team that led the league in that category going into the game.

3. (5) Saints (8-2) — The Saints are a scary team when the offense is firing on all cylinders. Drew Brees is quietly putting up monster numbers once again as Peyton Manning gets all the attention.

4. (7) Panthers (7-3) — Cam Newton and the Panthers finally got the league’s attention.  Newton needed to prove he could lead his team late in the fourth quarter against a playoff-caliber team, and he accomplished just that.

5. (3) Chiefs (9-1) —  That ferocious Chiefs defense was non-existent Sunday night. Kansas City had a tremendous opportunity to rough up Peyton Manning but was unable to even knock him down. Despite the loss, many of the mistakes are fixable and the Chiefs should be able to rush Manning better when they face him again at Arrowhead.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Broncos, Cam Newton, Drew Brees

Bill Belichick on whether he’s heard from NFL on flag-gate: ‘We’re on to Denver’

11.20.13 at 11:57 am ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick said his piece about what he felt about the non-call at the end of Monday night’s game immediately afterward. He has no plans of publicly addressing it any further.

The Patriots coach was asked several times by NFL Network reporter Albert Breer if he’s contacted the league for an official explanation on the decision of referee Clete Blakeman to pick up the flag after video showed Luke Kuechly holding Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone. Belichick would only say he and his staff are preparing for Denver.

Here was Wednesday’s exchange:

Breer: Have you contacted the league about the call at the end of the Carolina game?

“We’re on to Denver.”

Breer: Have you?

“We’re on to Denver.”

Breer: You were looking for an explanation. Did you get one?

“We working on Denver.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, Clete Blakeman, Denver Broncos

Report: Alfonzo Dennard out a few weeks after knee procedure

11.20.13 at 11:18 am ET
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Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will be out a few weeks after having a small meniscus procedure performed on his knee, according to a report from Ian Rapoport at NFL Network.

Dennard missed Monday’s loss to the Panthers after showing up on the injury report in the middle of last week.

With cornerback Aqib Talib slowed by a hip injury, cornerback Kyle Arrington struggling with a groin strain and safety Steve Gregory out with a broken thumb, the Patriots defensive backfield will face a major challenge Sunday night against the pass-happy Broncos. Denver leads the league in points, total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Read More: Alfonzo Dennard,

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘You don’t have long to grieve in the NFL’

11.20.13 at 8:26 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday for his weekly chat, and the main topic of discussion was the controversial ending to Monday night’s game, when pass interference was called and then waived off, giving the Panthers a 24-20 victory.

“As athletes, we have the biggest influence on the game,” Brady said. “You hate for it to come down to a decision that’s out of your hands. It was really one play in the game. And we shouldn’t have really even been in that situation. The most frustrating part is just that we had plenty of opportunities to win that we didn’t take advantage of. So, you hate to come out of the game and blame something that’s out of your control, whether you agree with it or don’t agree with it.

“I’m sure everyone has their own feelings on it. My own personal feeling is yeah, there’s frustration. I was certainly frustrated at the moment it happened. But also going to the locker room and understanding that we really blew the chances that we had, that’s more the overriding factor for me.”

Brady insisted Bill Belichick did not directly tell the players to avoid discussing the controversy.

“He didn’t say anything,” Brady recalled. “He just said, ‘We played hard, hold your head high, we’ve got our whole season ahead of us, let’s not make any excuses and move on.”

The veteran quarterback acknowledged he’s never seen a short throw called an uncatchable ball as it was Monday.

“No, I haven’t. I’m sure there’s a first time for everything,” Brady said. “We get our fair share of calls, and we don’t [get others]. Referees never want to be in that position, either, where they have to make a judgment call like that. They wish it would not come down to that, either, I’m sure, because they don’t want to play that kind of role in the game. They did, that was that situation. They made a call, and then they overturned the call. I guess being in the NFL for as long as I’ve been in, you see kind of everything. It so happened, and we’re going to have to move on.

“You don’t have long to grieve in the NFL. You feel crappy for the flight home, and then you start evaluating what we need to do better. And certainly we’re on to Denver at this point.”

Next up for the Patriots is a Sunday night matchup with the 9-1 Broncos and Wes Welker, who suffered a concussion in Denver’s last game. Brady said he expects his former teammate to be ready to play.

“Yes, I do. I’ve been around him long enough to know what he’s all about,” Brady said. “He loves playing football, and there’s a chance for him to play, and especially coming back here, he’s definitely going to be out there, I’ve got no question about that. ‘€¦ It would take an awful lot for him to miss this game.”

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Read More: Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Wes Welker

NFL officiating chief: Crew made right call at end of Pats-Panthers

11.19.13 at 5:25 pm ET
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Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, told the NFL Network on Tuesday that the officiating crew who worked Monday night’s Patriots-Panthers game — which ended with a disputed call in the end zone — made the right decision in picking up the flag.

Blandino said the officiating crew made a “tight judgment call” on the final play of the game, ruling that the “restriction” of tight end Rob Gronkowski by linebacker Luke Kuechly took place at the same time as the interception that was being made by defensive back Robert Lester. Because of that, no call should be made in that instance.

“It’€™s a judgment call,” Blandino said. “There was contact, but there is contact on a lot of passing plays downfield. The issue isn’€™t the contact; the issue is the restriction. Does it occur prior to the ball being touched? At full speed, the officials made a tight judgment call and they determined that the restriction occurred just as the ball was being touched. Again, at full speed, you could see why they made that call.’€

Blandino praised the group — led by referee Clete Blakeman — for coming together and making a decision as a group.

“They have to make this call, they used proper mechanics,” Blandino said. “They got together after the play to determine that, in their judgment, that the contact occurred simultaneous with the ball being intercepted and that’s what the officials did.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that the Patriots are moving on from the disputed finish and focusing on this week’s opponent, Denver.

‘€œIt doesn’€™t matter what I think,’€ Belichick said when asked about his take on the finish. ‘€œIt’€™s whatever the officials think is the only thing that matters. It doesn’€™t matter what any of us think. They’€™re the ones who make the calls. It’€™s their explanation and their judgment that we all have to abide by.

‘€œIt’€™s not really our job to call the game ‘€” it’€™s to play it and coach it,’€ he added. ‘€œWhatever calls they make are the ones that we live with. We can’€™t let that affect what we’€™re doing, we just have to do continue to coach the techniques and do the things that are right and within the rules and assume that they’€™ll be officiated accordingly. So that’€™s how we’€™ll handle that.’€

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Clete Blakeman, Dean Blandino,

Matthew Slater on M&M: ‘They decided not to make the call, and it is what it is’

11.19.13 at 12:55 pm ET
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Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to discuss Monday’s 24-20 loss to the Panthers that ended in controversy.

“It’s obviously disappointing when the game doesn’t work out in your favor, especially when you don’t feel like you played as well as you could have. But it is what it is,” Slater said. “They made more plays than we did at the end of the day, and they won the game. We’ve got to be able to turn the page and move on to Denver, because we’ve got a short week ahead of us.”

On the game’s final play, Rob Gronkowski was held by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly as Tom Brady‘s pass was intercepted in the end zone. A flag was thrown but then picked up, with the officials ruling the pass was not catchable.

“It’s obviously tough to end the game that way,” Slater said. “I’m still not really sure what happened and what the explanation was behind the picking up of the flag. But like I said, it is what it is. Us losing that game doesn’t come down to that final play. There were several plays over the course of the game that maybe we could have executed better on and we wouldn’t have left ourselves in that position.

“No football game comes down to one play. It’s just unfortunate that the game ended in that manner. But it is what it is.”

Added Slater: “It really doesn’t matter. They decided not to make the call, and it is what it is.”

Slater said that despite the frustration in letting a game slip away, there were some good things to take from the loss.

“The positive thing that we can look at is, obviously we didn’t start the game very fast, we didn’t come out the way we would have wanted to, but we were able to play ourselves back into the game,” he said. “I think that shows a tremendous amount of mental toughness, being that that environment was electric last night and that was a tough place to play. But obviously we do see a lot of areas that we can improve on, and I’m sure we’ll have a chance to look at the tape a little as we move on to Denver. But we understand that down the stretch, we’re going to have to play a lot better going against these opponents we have coming up.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Matthew Slater,

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